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Danger Dog Eats Cannabis Cookies

High Times with My Pooch

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I have a dog named Danger, and once upon a time, he ate 31 marijuana-infused chocolate chip cookies. That’s right, my dog ate enough pot cookies to put a couple-dozen full-sized humans deep into a state of “Holy shit, I’m high!!” category and lived to bark about it. Before you damn me to “bad dog owner” status, let’s review the facts of that horrid day and some ever-important background about my beloved beast and his savant-level ability to eat things he shouldn’t.

The deal went down early on a Friday morning nearly seven years ago. I had been up late the night before with a friend baking said cookies for an upcoming 30th birthday weekend hootenanny in Santa Cruz. I thought I would help cater the affair with some delicious desserts that included the Devil’s Lettuce on the ingredients list. We toiled away in the kitchen, preparing the cookies, and as the last batch was going into the oven, I retired for the evening, leaving the finishing moves and cleanup to my pal, who shall remain nameless.

Around 7 a.m. the next morning, I awoke to a sound I knew all too well ― the telltale countertop rustling of a 90-pound Aussie/German shepherd mix, foraging in places he shouldn’t. In the mental fog of early morning, an alarm went off in my brain: “Crap, the pot cookies!!” Naked and afraid, I ran to the kitchen yelling Danger’s name. Turning the corner from the hallway, the evidence of what had just transpired was all over the place; my baking buddy had left a stash of some 50 cannabis cookies on a platter to cool in a decidedly non-Danger-proof part of my kitchen.

My dog has a thing about food, a crazy compulsion that has led him to eat 38 pounds of kibble in one sitting; steal countless hamburgers and ice cream cones from the hands of children; one fresh-from-the-oven loaf of Schat’s famous jalapeño cheese bread; and a ridiculous amount of other items (edible and non, no doubt) that I thankfully have no idea about. He has had his stomach pumped three times for such transgressions.

So the scene I encountered in the kitchen that morning was not so much a surprise as it was a horror ― nearly two-thirds of the illicit cookies were gone, Danger’s heart-melting brown eyes looking up at me with a mix of “I’m sorry” and “What did you expect?”

I called the 24-hour emergency vet hospital. “My dog just ate 30 goddamn pot cookies.” I shouted at the woman on the other end. After a brief pause, she asked, “How strong were they?” I didn’t know the answer as I had yet to test the goods myself, but I knew we had put in a ferocious amount of herb. I told her as much, and she suggested I bring him in immediately.

Within a few minutes, Danger was in the back of my truck, and we were headed to the hospital. I will never forget turning right off the Highway 101 exit ramp onto Garden Street and looking in my rearview mirror, only to see my typically sure-footed and athletic dog fall over and wet himself. I felt like a real asshole. An x-ray showed that the cookies were already digesting in his stomach, so inducing vomiting or pumping his tummy would not work; he simply had to ride out the high.

I learned that day from the vets that dogs on weed is an increasingly common problem here in Santa Barbara. The receptionist said that their office dealt with the problem on a near-weekly basis. The doctor who helped us praised my honesty, explaining that most people are hesitant to admit that their dog (or cat) got into their stash, and thus a lengthy and always-expensive battery of tests ensues as the vets try to determine the problem for themselves. She also explained that though pot is worse than awful for dogs as it can cause everything from un-coordination and dehydration to irregular heart rates, depression, and seizures, it is also rarely if ever fatal. The reason for this, as I later learned via my own research, is that dogs have more receptors for THC (the psycho-active part of cannabis) than humans do, a fact that guarantees they feel the effects in ways we can only imagine.

In the end, Danger was fine ― more than fine really. The freak that he is actually seemed to enjoy the buzz, and in the years since, he has shown a visible affinity for marijuana. As for the aforementioned birthday party in Santa Cruz, we all made the scene but, for obvious reasons, kept things pretty mellow that weekend.

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Your dog ate weed by accident. Now what?

A few years ago, my former housemate’s dog ate weed — a cannabis-infused brownie, to be exact. She connected the dots when she noticed her normally docile, sweet-natured chihuahua mix fearfully snapping at anyone within reach — and the disappearance of the weed brownie she had stashed in her purse. The high wore off eventually, and luckily, her pupper was just fine. But what exactly happens when your pet accidentally eats weed, and what’s the best way to handle it?

Amid the rising tide of cannabis legalization and growing acceptance of the substance overall, pet owners have probably begun asking themselves these questions more often. Indeed, there’s evidence to suggest these accidents might become more common. One study found that during a steep rise in medical marijuana registrations in Colorado between 2005 and 2010, marijuana toxicosis cases in dogs quadrupled at two veterinary hospitals in the state.

Dogs are far more likely than any other pet to eat your weed brownie, Steven Friedenberg, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, tells Mic. “We see dogs being a lot more curious about things and interested in eating everything than many other species.” Cats, on the other hand, tend to be much more finicky about what they eat.

If your doggo does get into your stash, it’ll take roughly 30 minutes to an hour for the weed to take effect, says Karl Jandrey, a professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Intoxication in dogs looks similar, but not the same, as it does in their humans. Physically, they might have unusually dilated pupils, a slower heart rate, and difficulty walking, if they can walk at all. (In severe cases, they might just lie still.) They also often dribble urine uncontrollably. Behavior-wise, they tend to startle more easily and be warier of people they normally trust.

This heightened apprehension might explain why eating a weed brownie made my old housemate’s dog so aggro, although Jandrey notes it’s more common for weed to result in a general lethargy. But chocolate, which is toxic to dogs, can cause agitation, Friedenberg says — so the chocolate in the brownie might have played a role.

It also matters whether your Very Good (but very high) Boy or Girl ingested an edible versus flower. Since, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main inebriating compound in marijuana) is fat-soluble, a stick of weed butter or a brownie has a higher concentration of THC than an equivalent volume of, say, THC-infused seltzer — and will therefore mess up your pet more, according to Friedenberg. Size matters, too. “The smaller the animal, the more toxic,” Jandrey says. In other words, a weed brownie would probably have a smaller effect on a Great Dane than it did on my former housemate’s smol chihuahua mix.

Dogs have the ability to recycle a class of compounds called cannabinoids, which includes THC, in weed. When the dog eats their next meal, the bile gets secreted back into the intestines, basically re-exposing the them to the cannabinoids.

The effects of an edible high usually last for around 18 to 24 hours in dogs, Jandrey says; in humans, they last for only up to 12 hours, according to Harvard Health. Jandrey explains that dogs have the ability to recycle a class of compounds called cannabinoids, which includes THC, in weed. The cannabinoids get absorbed through the gut and later stored in the bile, important for digesting fats. When the dog eats their next meal, the bile gets secreted back into the intestines, basically re-exposing the them to the cannabinoids.

Dogs usually just sleep off the weed, Friedenberg says, but there have been some case reports of dogs dying from eating weed or weed-laden products. (The study of the Colorado veterinary hospitals reported the deaths of two dogs that had eaten weed butter in baked products.) Most were small dogs that consumed extremely high doses, which can cause respiratory depression, or slow, insufficient breathing. Friedenberg says such cases are rare, though.

So how do you know if you should take your fur baby to the doc, or if they’ll be fine riding it out at home? “I think for the most part, if you’re concerned about your animal’s health at all and not sure what’s going on, the best thing to do is bring your dog to a veterinarian,” Friedenberg says. Let your vet know if you’re concerned that your pupper got a hold of your weed, so they actually know what your dog is dealing with and don’t run tests for a totally different condition. If you’re worried about the legal repercussions, Friedenberg says your vet probably won’t care.

If you’re comfortable with your dog being mildly affected — “a little wobbly, a little incontinent” — but mostly okay, and their symptoms don’t worsen, they probably don’t need veterinary attention, Jandrey says. Just make sure they’re eating and drinking normally, Friedenberg adds.

But if your doggo’s symptoms worsen within an hour or two of you first noticing them, get to a vet, since they could worsen even further over the next few hours, Jandrey says. And if your dog is hard to rouse, or you struggle to get them to walk, Friedenberg suggests going to the hospital, where they’ll likely be given an intravenous lipid solution that can help absorb THC in the bloodstream. Head to the ER if you have a small dog you suspect has eaten a high dose of weed.

To keep your pets from getting their paws on your weed in the first place, store it in a medicine cabinet, on a high shelf, or other hard-to-access spot, Friedenberg says. Take these precautions before you become impaired, rather than passing out and waking up to find your dog scarfed down the gummies you left on the counter in your edible-induced haze. Or, if you dog already tends to misbehave in general, consider keeping them crated when you’re not at home.

Since dogs will eat anything, even stuff you wouldn’t consider edible, remember to keep all cannabis products out of their reach. Jandrey recently treated a small dog that ate six joints, sneaking them from the coffee able while their human had some friends over to smoke. “You can never predict what an animal will do,” he says. They may not even be hungry, just inquisitive.

Basically, safeguard your pets from weed as you would kids from medications, Jandrey says. Seeing your fur baby high can be scary, but if they do get to your stash, they’ll probably emerge on the other side just fine, like my old housemate’s dog, even if it takes a couple of hours.

This article was originally published on November 4, 2019

A few years ago, my former housemate’s dog ate weed — a cannabis-infused brownie, to be exact. She connected the dots when she noticed her normally docile, sweet-natured chihuahua mix fearfully snapping at anyone within reach — and the disappearance…